News of the Church


President Hinckley Breaks Ground for Sacramento California Temple

President Gordon B. Hinckley presided at the groundbreaking for the Sacramento California Temple on August 22, 2004. The temple will be the seventh in the state.

Prior to the groundbreaking, President Hinckley addressed nearly 2,000 members gathered at the Fair Oaks California Stake Center, adjacent to the temple site, and offered a short dedicatory prayer. Thousands more viewed the proceedings via satellite broadcast in 40 meetinghouses within the temple district. The temple will serve about 80,000 California residents, with boundaries from Stockton to Red Bluff.

“I pray that this building, when it is dedicated, standing in your midst, will bring with that dedication an added spirit of testimony and faith, of love for the Lord and His great work, of dedication to the work of His cause and His kingdom,” said President Hinckley before dedicating the site. “I pray that families may be blessed and prospered and live together in love and peace with respect and appreciation one for another. I pray that the gospel light may shine on the countenances of the members of this Church in this area, that they may be known and recognized as those who walk in that light which has come from the God of heaven through the restoration of His great work in this the last and final dispensation of time. I pray that the Spirit of the Lord may rest upon this whole area and that that Spirit may touch the hearts and minds of men and women who will embrace the gospel and partake of its richest blessings.”

President Hinckley met several local priesthood leaders and Latter-day Saint politicians outside for the groundbreaking. Roseville Mayor F. C. “Rocky” Rockholm, California State Representative John Doolittle, and President Hinckley all used gold-plated shovels to break ground.

Church News contributed to this report.

[photo] President Gordon B. Hinckley broke ground for the new Sacramento California Temple on August 22, 2004. (Photograph by Greg Hill/courtesy of Church News.)

Church Continues to Grow in More than 160 Countries

In 2004, worldwide Church membership reached 12 million, the Church was ranked among the fastest-growing churches in the United States, and Mexico became the first nation outside of the U.S. to top one million members. Brazil is projected to surpass one million members during 2006.

Growth outside of the United States continues to surpass growth within the U.S. More than half of all Church members live outside the United States. Members of the Church are found in more than 160 countries and territories, speaking more than 178 languages.

The accompanying map shows membership distribution around the world.

Estimates based on 2003 year-end data.

Countries with Highest Church Membership

1. United States

5,503,192

2. Mexico*

980,053

3. Brazil

866,988

4. Chile

530,739

5. Philippines

526,178

6. Peru

384,663

7. Argentina

330,349

8. Guatemala

192,207

9. Canada

166,442

10. Ecuador

161,396

Estimates based on 2003 year-end data.

* Mexico surpassed the one million mark after these figures were compiled.

Countries with Highest Percentage of Church Membership*

1. Tonga

46.0

(1 out of 2)

2. Samoa

34.0

(1 out of 3)

3. American Samoa

19.1

(1 out of 5)

4. Kiribati

10.0

(1 out of 10)

5. French Polynesia

7.8

(1 out of 13)

6. Chile

3.4

(1 out of 30)

7. Uruguay

2.4

(1 out of 42)

8. New Zealand

2.3

(1 out of 43)

9. Honduras

1.6

(1 out of 62)

10. Bolivia

1.5

(1 out of 64)

Estimates based on 2003 year-end data.

* Minimum 10,000 members. Four countries have higher percentages but fewer than 10,000 members: Niue (13.0), Marshall Islands (6.8), Cook Islands (6.5), and Micronesia (3.1).

Languages Most Frequently Spoken by Church Members

1. English

5,828,000

2. Spanish

3,681,000

3. Portuguese

907,000

4. Tagalog (Philippines)

165,000

5. Cebuano (Philippines)

126,000

6. Japanese

117,000

7. Ilokano (Philippines)

109,000

8. Samoan

102,000

9. Tongan

76,000

10. Korean

75,000

Estimates based on 2003 year-end data.

Members Survive Deadly Storms

Members in Taiwan were affected by Typhoons Rananim and Aere, while those in the southeastern United States coped with Hurricane Charley. Fortunately, all members escaped life-threatening injury. Now, months later, residents of the affected areas are still putting their lives back together, and members of the Church continue helping out where they can.

Devastation Quick, Recovery Slow after Two Typhoons

Only two weeks after Typhoon Rananim killed a man as it swept the northern tip of Taiwan, members there survived a second deadly typhoon, Aere, that battered the northern half of Taiwan on August 24–25.

No members were killed in either storm, but during Aere a number of members lost possessions and received flood damage to their homes in Sunchung City, Taipei, and were without drinking water for several days in Taoyuan County.

“Although we lost some possessions, we are all safe,” said Bishop Sheng-hsiung Wang of the San Chung Ward, Taipei Taiwan Central Stake. “We felt we were protected by the Lord.”

James Chao, manager of the Church’s Taiwan Service Center, distributed 10 tons (9 tonnes) of water during the shortage to both members and those of other faiths.

Aere triggered a mudslide that buried a building belonging to another church, killing two who sought shelter there. Seven others had been reported dead at press time. About one million homes were left without water or electricity throughout the island.

About two weeks earlier, members in Taiwan had been more than happy to bid farewell to Rananim, a typhoon with a name meaning “hello” in the Chuukese language spoken in Micronesia.

The typhoon claimed one life as it brushed Taiwan’s northeastern tip, and another 115 lives when it slammed into China’s southeastern coast on August 12, news reports said. Another 16 were reported missing and 1,800 injured in the days after. This was the 14th typhoon to hit China in 2004 and was the most powerful since Typhoon Winnie struck the coast in 1997, killing about 250 people.

The Shihmen Reservoir, Taiwan’s biggest reservoir, was forced to open its floodgates because of excess water. Authorities urged residents downstream to evacuate if necessary.

Damage from Typhoon Rananim is expected to reach 15.33 billion yuan (U.S. $1.85 billion), and it affected more than 8.5 million people. China’s central government allocated 61 million yuan (U.S. $7 million) for emergency aid. Relief workers arrived in the disaster areas soon after the storm hit and have been helping to rebuild the affected areas in China and Taiwan.

Church Helps Pick Up after Hurricane Charley

Monstrous waves, 180 mph (290 kph) winds, and sheets of rain were just a few characteristics of the hurricane Florida residents came to know intimately last August. Hurricane Charley tore into the lives of thousands, leaving a wake of destruction estimated to cost more than U.S. $10 billion. But following his trail were relief workers willing to give of their time and resources to help those whose lives were forever affected by the storm.

The Church responded to the plea for help by those who no longer had electricity, food, or even homes. Semi-trucks filled with emergency supplies such as food, water, tents, bedding, tools, and roofing materials were immediately sent to Port Charlotte, an area that was hit hard by the storm.

After an assessment of the damage, more relief supplies were sent along with cash donations to assist the victims. Church storehouses in Orlando and Plant City, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia, supplied food for thousands who remained homeless for weeks after the storm. More than 23,000 hygiene kits to help meet basic needs were also distributed to those in need.

Along with the supplies came a volunteer force of 1,500 Saints, including full-time missionaries and members from more than 130 congregations in south Florida. They brought their own tools, water, food, and camping supplies so as not to take away from those who didn’t have anything.

Some volunteers took on the task of repairing homes of hospital personnel in Port Charlotte so they could return to work to meet the health needs of the community. They also helped in Wauchula, Kissimmee, Arcadia, Punta Gorda, and other areas.

Many volunteers came from Miami, where Church members remember the generosity of others after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. “During Hurricane Andrew, people from other areas [of Florida] came to Miami to help us clean up, and we’d like to return the favor,” said M. Anthony Burns, president of the Homestead Florida Stake.

Members from the Brandon Florida Stake, an area near Tampa, were on the phone with members in the Port Charlotte Ward as soon as they heard Port Charlotte was receiving the brunt of the storm. They arrived before relief workers had time to set up camp, so they began clearing the grounds around the meetinghouse using tools and machinery from the local Church farm. They then went to members’ homes to assess their needs.

All members in all areas of Florida were accounted for with no reports of injury, though some lost their homes. All missionaries were evacuated before the storm hit, but they later returned to help in the relief efforts. At least seven meetinghouses were damaged, but repairs are underway or already completed.

While the member volunteers helped clear people’s property, counselors from LDS Family Services in Salt Lake City were helping clear people’s minds. “In these abnormal situations a lot of what we do is reestablish family patterns and instill hope in the community,” Doug LeCheminant, program specialist for LDS Family Services, said. They have also helped in such situations as the September 11 tragedy and the Kosovo refugee crisis.

[photo] George Mazzeo directs a crew of volunteers from the Plantation and Davie Wards, Fort Lauderdale Florida Stake, as they remove pieces of a tree from a roof. (Photograph by Steve Frahm/courtesy of Church News.)

Missionaries’ Olympic Efforts Are Golden in Greece

Missionaries in all areas of the world spend their time searching for “golden” contacts, but for two weeks last August missionaries in the Greece Athens Mission gave their time to help those who were in search of Olympic gold.

Of the 70,000 unpaid volunteers at the Athens Olympics, 76 of them were full-time missionaries, including 14 senior missionary couples, who spent hour after hour in the sun assisting with anything from rifle shooting to equestrian events, swimming to judo wrestling.

“[The volunteer supervisors] have been so impressed with our missionaries, which we knew they would be,” said mission president John B. Ludwig during the Olympics. “[The missionaries] are making so many friends.”

Having previously worked with many Church members at the Salt Lake Olympics, Lisa Wardle, volunteer coordinator for the Athens Organizing Committee, allowed the missionaries to be included on the list of volunteers. Since then she has received many comments about how there is “something different” about the missionary volunteers—“something in their countenances,” President Ludwig said.

“I knew that the missionaries would be watched over and administered to, spiritually and physically,” says President Ludwig. “I knew that others would feel of our presence even though the missionaries had taken off their ties and name tags.”

After receiving special permission from the Church, the missionaries and President Ludwig followed a long approval process to be able to help at the games. They filled out extensive forms more than 10 months before the Olympics began. They then had to pass security checks and prove they were legally allowed to be in the country.

Initially, the Olympic committee was hesitant about accepting missionaries as volunteers, afraid that they would proselyte. Lisa Wardle assured the committee that it would not be a problem. And after members of the Olympic committee met with the missionaries, they agreed they had never met a better group of young people and were excited to have them aboard, President Ludwig said.

In fact, once the missionaries started training, supervisors were asking if they could have more volunteers just like them. They were impressed with the variety of backgrounds and languages spoken by the group.

Members of the Olympic committee were not the only ones with concerns, however. “My first concern was safety. The other concern was the disruption to the missionary schedule,” President Ludwig said. Sometimes the missionaries had to be up by 5:00 a.m. and to their scheduled venues by 6:30. Other times they would start at 3:00 p.m. and not return home until 12:30 or 1:00 a.m.

To make sure all the missionaries were safe and sound, President Ludwig set up a “command center” in the mission home. All missionaries were required to call in and report every day.

“It has been hard to a degree because [the missionaries] have broken out of their normal schedule, but overall they have said it has been a beautiful experience seeing the Greek people in a different light,” President Ludwig said. “It has been a breath of fresh air to us in Athens.”

Some of the missionaries see the opportunity to volunteer at the games as an answer to prayer, because in the past there have been problems with the way the public perceived the missionaries. Now the missionaries are making friends and helping to change the image of Latter-day Saint missionaries in Greece. “When they see us now there will be a whole different attitude. Many will welcome us to talk to them,” President Ludwig believes.

The missionaries feel that even if they don’t get one new teaching appointment, they have done important work by showing that the Church is willing to love and help others.

[photo] Full-time missionaries serving in Greece found themselves in the middle of the Olympic action as volunteers for the 2004 Games. (Courtesy of Church News/Greece Athens Mission.)

Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s History Ranges from Sagebrush to Royal Halls

From its beginnings under a crude, sagebrush-roofed bowery, to its performances in grand halls for presidents and kings, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has created for itself a fascinating history.

Last year marked the 75th anniversary of the choir’s radio program, Music and the Spoken Word, making it the longest continuously running network broadcast in radio history and earning it a place in the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. But this history is just one of the many pieces that completes the whole picture of the choir.

In an effort to create a complete portrait of the choir, director and producer Lee B. Groberg and writer Heidi S. Swinton completed a documentary detailing the history of the choir. The documentary, titled America’s Choir: The Story of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, was aired on PBS stations throughout the U.S. in November 2004.

The film blends concert performances, personal interviews, reenactments, and archival footage, and it includes narration by Walter Cronkite and special appearances by celebrities as it tracks the choir’s role in special events throughout its 158-year history.

The choir had its first performance at a general conference of the Church on August 22, 1847—just 29 days after Latter-day Saint pioneers first entered the valley. The choir now consists of 360 voices and is typically accompanied by a 11,623-pipe organ and a 110-member orchestra.

Every member of the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square is an unpaid volunteer. Some even travel up to 100 miles each way to attend rehearsals and performances in Salt Lake City. But choir members think of their sacrifice as a blessing.

“Many of us attend full-time jobs before we go to choir practice in the evenings,” says choir member Cindy Staheli. “Sometimes, after a long day, it’s hard to imagine singing for two and a half hours. But no matter how tired I am, by the time I leave that practice, I could sing for two and a half hours more. It lifts my soul and rejuvenates me.”

It may be hard to make sacrifices to be in the choir, but it is even more difficult to get in. The documentary describes the long process of becoming accepted into the choir. The process usually lasts nine months. Interested singers first submit a recording that demonstrates their vocal range. They then must pass a test that assesses their knowledge of musical concepts. If they score 80 percent or higher, they are invited for an in-person audition. If they are selected from their auditions, they are then invited to join the Temple Square Chorale, which serves as a training school for the Tabernacle Choir. Choir members range in age from 25 to 60 and can have a maximum of 20 years of service in the choir.

Today the choir has opportunities to tour the world, far beyond where early members would have thought possible. The choir’s first tour was to the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Their first performance for a U.S. president was in 1911 for President William Howard Taft, and their first European tour was in 1955. Since then they have performed in places as varied as Russia’s Bolshoi Theater and London’s Royal Albert Hall, as well as with the Jerusalem Symphony in Israel.

They have also performed for special events such as inaugurations and funerals. On September 11, 2001, the choir was scheduled to perform in the Tabernacle on Temple Square for a visiting group of conventioneers. Because of the terrorist attacks on the United States earlier that day, the performance was changed to a memorial concert. As a show of respect, President Gordon B. Hinckley asked the audience to refrain from applauding.

“Midway through the concert we sang ‘America the Beautiful,’” says choir member Stephen Stoker. “Unable to applaud, the audience stood as we began to sing. When we got to the third verse, where we sing, ‘Oh, beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years, thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears,’ we were all crying. … It was a powerful experience for all of us.”

They also performed with popular musician Sting during the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Upon hearing the choir sing for the first time, Sting said that it reaffirmed his “belief that music really can express the highest of human ideals.”

The documentary also goes back in time, capturing a reenactment of the choir’s first Music and the Spoken Word radio broadcast, which debuted on July 15, 1929. The segment recreates early radio equipment and has 150 current choir members in period costume. The announcer had to stand on a tall ladder through the entire program to reach the one and only microphone.

However, throughout the choir’s history one thing has remained the same—its ability to touch people’s hearts.

“It’s been said that words make us think of ideas, and music makes us feel,” says choir member Stan Smith. “But a song, which combines the two, makes us feel an idea.” Sister Staheli adds, “I think music can touch people’s hearts where sometimes words don’t even reach us.”

[photo] The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

[photo] The Mormon Tabernacle Choir celebrates Utah’s statehood at the Tabernacle in 1896.

Additional Sharing Time Ideas, January 2005

The following are additional ideas Primary leaders may use with the Sharing Time printed in the January 2005 Liahona. For the lesson, instructions, and activity that correspond with these ideas, see “The Plan of Happiness” on pages F8 and F9 of the children’s section in this issue.

1. Help the children memorize Moses 1:39 (see Teaching, No Greater Call [1999], 171–72). Teach the plan of salvation by using stations that represent each phase of our existence: premortal, earth life, spirit world, and degrees of glory. (This will need to be taught chronologically. If your Primary is small, move to each station as a group. With many children, select small groups to represent the whole group and have them demonstrate moving from station to station at the front of the room.) As children move from premortal to earth life, they will pass through the “veil” representing birth. As they move from earth to the spirit world, they will pass through the “veil” representing death. As they move from the spirit world to the degrees of glory, help them understand the concepts of resurrection and judgment. With scriptures, stories, songs, and testimony (see suggestions below), teach what we have done and what we are expected to do in each phase of our existence.

Premortal life: Abr. 3:22–26; D&C 138:55–56; “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” paragraphs 2–3; “I Lived in Heaven” (Liahona, Apr. 1999, F5). Earth life: Articles of Faith [A of F 1:1–13]; My Gospel Standards; role of the Savior; stories from the scriptures of choosing the right; a song or hymn about obedience. Spirit world: Alma 40:9–14; D&C 138:57 (the righteous will do missionary work); a song or hymn about missionary work; talk about the importance of temple work for the dead. Degrees of glory: D&C 76:50–112; A of F 1:3–4; a song or hymn about eternal families.

Copy the plan of salvation chart from Primary 6, lesson 1. Make a copy for each child to color as he or she moves from station to station. Encourage the children to share the charts with their families.

2. Using Gospel Art Picture Kit 101 (Adam and Eve in the Garden) and 119 (Adam and Eve Teaching Their Children), teach the story of Adam and Eve and the role they played in Heavenly Father’s plan. Post both pictures on the wall. Make wordstrips identifying conditions specific to the Garden of Eden (for example, no death, living in the presence of Heavenly Father, no illness or pain, all animals living in peace with each other, no children, Adam and Eve did not labor for their living) and wordstrips identifying conditions in the world after the Fall (for example, death and pain, living by faith, children coming to Adam and Eve, knowledge, progression). Place the wordstrips in a box, and pass the box while the children sing a song or hymn. Stop the music frequently. When the music stops, let a child pick a wordstrip and place it under the appropriate picture. Have the children find and read the testimonies of Adam and Eve in Moses 5:10–12. Point out that because of Adam and Eve, we can come to earth and be part of a family. Just as they taught their family the gospel, we can learn and live the gospel in our own families.

Divide the Primary into three groups. Ask the first group to think of what they could do to keep the commandments at home, the second to think of what they could do to keep the commandments at school, and the third to think of ways to keep the commandments at church. Pick one child from each group to draw on the chalkboard one thing they can do to keep the commandments. They must complete their drawings while the children are singing a verse of a song or hymn. Have the children guess what activities are illustrated. Repeat as time allows. Bear testimony that Adam and Eve were an important part of Heavenly Father’s plan; they were our first parents and taught their children the gospel. We can also learn and live the gospel in our families.